Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Six top dogs in post-apocalyptic books

Lorna Wallace has a PhD in English Literature and is a lover of all things science fiction and horror. She lives in Scotland with her rescue greyhound, Misty.

At Wallace tagged eleven of the best dogs in post-apocalyptic books and films, including:
Kojak — The Stand (1978) by Stephen King

Kojak is literary proof that humans don’t deserve dogs. Captain Trips, the superflu that kills off the majority of humanity in The Stand, is also deadly for dogs. Glen Bateman comes across a rare doggy survivor, an Irish Setter formally known as Big Steve, and renames him Kojak, after the ’70s TV detective. After initially establishing himself as a great guy by looking after Kojak, Glen then becomes a villain in my eyes by leaving him behind (!) to travel across the United States with Stu Redman, instead of figuring out a way to bring him with them. Even Randall Flagg, the real villain of the story, wouldn’t sink that low.

But Kojak is a loyal hound (not that Glen deserves it) and makes the difficult trip on his own. We even get an amazing, but deeply harrowing, section recounting the journey from Kojak’s point of view. Kojak isn’t just a good boy…by the end of the story he’s an absolute hero.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Stand is among David Koepp's seven top contagion novels, Claudia Gray's five top books about plagues and pandemics, and Michelle Tea's top ten books about the apocalypse.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Five top crime novels for details of legal & illegal professions

Lia Matera is the author of twelve crime novels in two series, one featuring politically conflicted lawyer Willa Jansson and the other, high-profile litigator Laura Di Palma. Matera has also published eleven short stories and a novella.

She is a graduate of Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco, where she was editor-in-chief of the Constitutional Law Quarterly. She is a member of the California Bar and was a Teaching Fellow at Stanford Law School before becoming a full-time writer.

Two of her novels were nominated for the mystery genre's top prize, the Edgar Allan Poe Award. Three were nominated for the Anthony Award, and two were nominated for the Macavity Award.

At Shepherd Matera tagged five of the "best crime novels for details of legal, intermittently legal, and definitely illegal professions," including:
Whip Hand by Dick Francis

What is it like to be a jockey? Dick Francis offers a master class in using workplace details to develop characters. Readers bond with his jockeys at a gallop (or sometimes when they’re under galloping hooves). Each book is a feast of information about a different related job. We see the power of stewards and bookies and the racing press, the schemes of fixers, the pride and agonies of owners and trainers, the grievances of lads mucking out stables. We learn about transporting horses, filming them, painting them, investing in them. In Whip Hand, Francis’s lean prose and fast pace establish his jockey-turned-detective's personality and backstory in a single page of prologue. The book holds a special place in my heart because it inspired me to try writing legal mysteries.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 28, 2022

Eleven of the best literary evocations of winter

At the Waterstones blog Anna Orhanen tagged eleven of "the very best literary evocations of winter," including:
Winter in Sokcho by Elisa Shua Dusapin

Off season in a tourist town on the border of South and North Korea, everything falls eerily quiet. Against the muted backdrop of snow-filled, bleak winter days, Dusapin's exquisite debut charts the relationship between a young French Korean woman working as a guesthouse receptionist and a random winter visitor, a French cartoonist in search of inspiration. Charged with emotional candour, Winter in Sokcho is a stunning exploration of what it means to feel alienated from oneself and of the intimacy that is sometimes possible between strangers.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Five top speculative fiction books featuring tarot

Electra Pritchett is a lapsed historian who splits her time between reading, research, and her obsession with birds and parfait. Born in New Jersey, she has lived on three continents and her studies have ranged from ancient Rome to modern Japan.

At she tagged "five works of genre fiction that incorporate the tarot or a tarot analog into the worldbuilding of their novels," including:
Nova by Samuel R. Delany

Nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novel, this is one of Delany’s best and most readable books. Set in the year 3172, the novel follows Lorq Von Ray’s quest to secure a supply of the power source Illyrion. This will allow him to win his feud with his arch-nemesis, and therefore shift the galactic balance of power away from Earth and towards younger political entities like Von Ray’s own Pleiades Federation. Nova is immensely clever on multiple levels, one of them being that it is a classic Grail Quest narrative—and what’s more, characters in the book are aware of it, discussing in the text about how to thwart the supposed fatal curse that falls upon those who finish their Quest tales.

In Delany’s space opera, tarot has become a mainstay of galactic society: the cards are not only widely used for games, as they are in parts of Europe today, but readings are also extremely common and considered scientific. As the would-be novelist Katin tells the Mouse, a skeptic, “…the cards don’t actually predict anything. They simply propagate an educated commentary on present situations—” Astute readers will realize that these remarks describe Lorq’s entire journey, but relating the reading to the plot is part of the enjoyment.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 26, 2022

Twenty-five novels based on true stories

At Oprah Daily Carole V. Bell and Trish Bendix tagged twenty-five novels based on true stories, including:
By Her Own Design, by Piper Huguley

This is an All-American story in the best sense of the term. When Jacqueline Bouvier married John F. Kennedy, it was the society event of the season. Even the highly scrutinized and celebrated dress secured a place in history. The talented woman who designed the piece of fashion history was Ann Lowe, a Black woman raised in Jim Crow Alabama, who learned to sew from her own mother and her formerly enslaved grandmother, both legendary seamstresses in their own right. Now this fascinating artist is enjoying renewed and long overdue attention thanks to this moving novel by storyteller and chronicler of African American history Piper Huguley.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 25, 2022

Five SFF books about spies and espionage

Elijah Kinch Spector is a writer, dandy, and rootless cosmopolitan from the Bay Area who now lives in Brooklyn.

His debut novel is Kalyna the Soothsayer.

Ava Reid, internationally bestselling author of The Wolf and the Woodsman, called Kalyna “a gorgeous, layered debut, both intricate and propulsive, with a singularly brilliant heroine at its center. Kalyna is a twisty, entrancing, and totally unique entry into epic fantasy.”

At Spector tagged "five books featuring lies and espionage on a national (or intergalactic) scale." One title on the list:
Dragon by Steven Brust

This, on the other hand, was an easy choice. Over the years, Brust’s antihero Vlad Taltos has been involved in a lot of espionage and trickery, but in the eighth book we get that epic fantasy classic: a war.

The beauty of Dragon is how petty, small, muddy, and unimportant that war is. Vlad, the supremely competent assassin and sometimes mafia boss, has to pretend to be a normal foot soldier in order to get close to an enemy. He’s utterly out of his element: uncomfortable, bored, and terrified. As the story wraps up, it expertly combines the satisfaction of a plot well-executed with dark satire and just a touch of sadness at such a useless loss of life.

All this is told in Brust’s spare and almost Hammett-like first person prose, which describes epic fantasy figures and eldritch magic weapons as though they’re everyday nuisances.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Top 10 books about tycoons

Peter Stothard is an author, journalist, and critic. He is a former editor of The Times of London and of the Times Literary Supplement.

He is the author of The Last Assassin: The Hunt for the Killers of Julius Caesar and most recently, Crassus: The First Tycoon.

“Peter Stothard is a master of modern writing about ancient Rome," says Mary Beard. "In Crassus] he cleverly explores the life of one of the most puzzling and elusive ‘big men’ in the history of Rome, and why it matters.”

At the Guardian Stothard tagged ten "books, each one based in different ways on power seekers who want it all," including:
Tycoon by Harold Robbins

In his trailblazing career as a novelist of the rich and powerful, Robbins improved with age. The hero of his 23rd bestseller, reputedly based on William Paley, founder of CBS, is as much concerned with sexual positions as those of the media markets where he makes his money.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Five of the best history books about the CIA

Hugh Wilford is a professor of history at California State University, Long Beach, and author of four books, including America's Great Game: The CIA's Secret Arabists and the Shaping of the Modern Middle East and The Mighty Wurlitzer: How the CIA Played America. He lives in Long Beach, California.

[The Page 99 Test: America's Great Game]

At Shepherd Wilford tagged five of the best history books about the CIA, including:
Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001 by Steve Coll

Taking the story from the endgame of the Cold War to the dawn of the War on Terror is this extraordinary book on the rise of Islamist terrorism and the CIA’s efforts to defeat it prior to 9/11. Coll’s research, based on interviews with a vast range of senior officials, is dazzling, yet it never overwhelms a narrative that combines human interest and geopolitical sweep seamlessly. No less impressive is his accomplishment in documenting not just the U.S. and Afghan perspectives but the Saudi and Pakistani as well, all in the same painstaking detail. If this whets the appetite for more of the same, Coll’s Directorate S resumes his account of the intelligence wars in Afghanistan, providing necessary background to understanding the failure of the U.S. occupation there.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Ghost Wars is among Town & Country's eleven best 9/11 books and Jason Burke's top ten books on Muslim extremism.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Seven novels featuring ambitious women

Stephanie Feldman is the author of the novels Saturnalia and The Angel of Losses, a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection, winner of the Crawford Fantasy Award, and finalist for the Mythopoeic Award. She is co-editor of the multi-genre anthology Who Will Speak for America? and her stories and essays have appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction, Catapult Magazine, Electric Literature, Flash Fiction Online, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, The Rumpus, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, and more. She lives outside Philadelphia with her family.

[The Page 69 Test: The Angel of LossesMy Book, The Movie: The Angel of LossesThe Page 69 Test: Saturnalia]

At Lit Hub Feldman tagged "seven books featuring driven women characters in a society that doesn’t want them to succeed," including:
Zakiya Dalila Harris, The Other Black Girl

The Other Black Girl
is another novel with a spiraling, unreliable narrator. Instead of negotiating academia and the stage, Nella is on the bottom rung of corporate publishing, and the only Black woman in the office. When a new Black editorial assistant arrives, solidarity quickly turns to competition. This novel turns class and racial politics, and the mental and social trap of being “the only one,” into a thriller. In white corporate America, can you succeed without selling your soul—or destroying someone else’s? The genre twists may be heightened, but the pain and danger are absolutely authentic.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Other Black Girl is among Caitlin Barasch’s seven novels set in the literary world and Ashley Winstead's seven titles that explore collective guilt & individual complicity.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 21, 2022

Seven titles about the pharmaco-industrial complex

Anne K. Yoder's fiction, essays, and criticism have appeared in Fence, BOMB, Tin House, NY Tyrant, and MAKE, among other publications. She is the author of two poetry chapbooks and is a staff writer for The Millions. She writes, lives, and occasionally dispenses pharmaceuticals in Chicago.

Yoder's new novel is The Enhancers.

At Electric Lit she tagged seven "books I’ve encountered, read, and collected that speak to pharmaceuticals and the pharmaco-industrial complex in myriad ways," including:
Oval by Elvia Wilk

The 21st-century dystopia borne of Utopian possibility in Elvia Wilk’s Oval paints a corporate-owned Berlin that sprouts its own scientific wonders of biodynamic housing and party drugs tailored to make users high on generosity. Oval at its core is about how humanitarian, ecologically friendly projects can be co-opted by corporate greed, and it provides incisive social critique, not just of corporate power but of class and hierarchy and the art world.

Idealists Anja and Louis live in a corporate-run housing experiment, an eco-housing collective built upon a fake mountain constructed over Berlin’s Tempelhof Field. Anja, a biologist in training, has been doing research in the Cartilage department of RANDI, working toward creating housing that one can grow from a petri dish, which could help solve Berlin’s housing crisis. Her partner Louis is a brand consultant and has been working secretly to create and market Oval, a drug that creates generosity in its users, and which Louis believes will solve inequality. No surprise that this ill-thought, corporate-backed experiment goes awry and ultimately wreaks havoc.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Five top novels with memorable, morally complicated characters

Charles Salzberg is a novelist, journalist, and founding member of the New York Writers Workshop.

His first novel, Swann’s Last Song, was nominated for a Shamus Award for Best First PI Novel. After losing, he swore he’d keep writing crime novels until he won something.

After four more novels in the Henry Swann series, he wrote two successful stand-alone novels, Devil in the Hole (named one of the best crime novels of 2013 by Suspense magazine) and Second Story Man (nominated for another Shamus and a David Award, both of which, true to form, he lost). He finally broke the losing streak when Second Story Man was named winner of the Beverly Hills Book Award.

At Shepherd Salzberg tagged five favorite novels with memorable, morally complicated characters, including:
Monument Road by Michael Wiley

This is the first in the Franky Dast series and it was nominated for a Shamus Award. Dast was convicted and sentenced to Death Row when he was 18, for the rape and murder of two adolescent boys. Eight years later, the verdict is overturned, in part as a result of the relationship Dast has established with the Justice Now Initiative, an organization specializing in cases of wrongful imprisonment. On his release, Dast joins the group and becomes involved in a case that hits close to home: the cop who arrested and coerced a confession from him is accused of shooting the son of a prominent judge. In Dast, Wiley has created the kind of complex character I’m drawn to, both as a writer and a reader. Wiley’s ability to dive deep into the psyche of complicated characters is something I’m always striving for.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Seven books that examine the thrill of life at sea, for good and evil

John Winn Miller is a former award-winning investigative reporter, foreign correspondent, editor, newspaper publisher, screenwriter, indie movie producer, and novelist. He lives in Lexington, KY, with his wife Margo, a potter and former college English instructor, two standard poodles, and a Maine Coon cat.

Miller's debut novel is The Hunt for the Peggy C.

At CrimeReads he tagged "seven books–fiction and non-fiction–that examine the thrill of life at sea, for good and evil," including:
THE DEVIL’S ALTERNATIVE by Frederick Forsyth

Forsyth’s Cold War thriller reads like it was taken from today’s headlines: Ukrainian nationalists hijack the world’s largest oil supertanker and threaten to unleash an ecological disaster if their Jewish colleagues, who hijacked a Soviet airliner, are not freed from a West Berlin prison; the Soviet Union, facing a deadly famine, teeters between negotiating with the West for food or seizing it by war, which will become the only option if the West frees the Ukrainian prisoners who know a terrible secret that could cause the breakup of the Soviet Union. British Intelligence agent Adam Munro must figure out a solution, knowing that each choice could lead to massive casualties. Whew!
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 18, 2022

Eleven novels about women misbehaving and making history

Kate Manning is the author of the critically acclaimed novels Gilded Mountain, My Notorious Life, and Whitegirl. A former documentary television producer and winner of two Emmy Awards, she has written for the New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times Book Review, Time, Glamour, and The Guardian, among other publications. She has taught creative writing at Bard High School Early College in Manhattan, and lives with her family in New York City.

[The Page 69 Test: My Notorious Life]

At Electric Lit Manning tagged "eleven novels [that] challenge notions of how women lived in the past." One title on the list:
What is Visible by Kimberly Elkins

Laura Bridgman was celebrated in the 1800s because she was the first deaf-blind person to acquire the use of language, fifty years before Helen Keller. But it was her wit and ferocity that marked her as extraordinary. She stunned large audiences with displays of her knowledge and abilities: sewing, housekeeping, and writing letters and poems. Her fame and accomplishments were credited to the teaching of the brilliant Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe, founder of the Perkins Institute in Boston, where Laura—blind and deaf from scarlet fever since the age of two—was taken at age seven. The novel weaves together Bridgman’s story with that of Howe and his wife, the poet, suffragist, and abolitionist Julia Ward Howe. Laura is mischievous and sometimes violently temperamental. Dr. Howe dictates what she may eat and read, and when she is disobedient, he punishes her by gloving her hands, thereby depriving her of her only method of communication. And yet, she musters a profound courage and makes a life at Perkins. Elkins gives full throat to Laura’s strong voice. What Is Visible illuminates the historical willful ignorance of men, and women’s struggles to be seen and heard. Laura Bridgman’s important story has been hiding in plain sight for more than 100 years, and Kimberly Elkins resurrects her to the narrative of American history in all her remarkable, fully human complexity.
Read about the other entries on the list.

My Book, The Movie: What Is Visible.

The Page 69 Test: What Is Visible.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Top 10 books about unlikely revolutionaries

Andrea Wulf is an award–winning author of seven acclaimed books, including the Founding Gardeners and The Invention of Nature which were both on the New York Times Best Seller List. She has written for the New York Times, the Atlantic, the LA Times, Wall Street Journal, and the Guardian and many others.

Her latest book is Magnificent Rebels. The First Romantics and the Invention of the Self.

At the Guardian Wulf tagged ten "fiction and non–fiction books" with "'heroes' [who] are all unlikely revolutionaries." One title on the list:
The Age of Wonder by Richard Holmes

This is a fascinating account of a period (roughly from Cook’s Endeavour and Charles Darwin’s Beagle voyage) that brought together science and poetry, rationalism and emotion, meticulous observation and imagination – all united by the notion of “wonder”. The revolutionaries here are astronomers, botanists, chemists, explorers and poets – and together they launched what Holmes calls “a revolution in Romantic science”. It’s also an evocative reminder how much this sense of wonder has been erased from science today.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Five SFF books about crashed spaceships

Lavie Tidhar is the World Fantasy Award-winning author of Osama (2011), The Violent Century (2013), the Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Prize-winning A Man Lies Dreaming (2014), and the Campbell Award-winning Central Station (2016), in addition to many other works and several other awards. He works across genres, combining detective and thriller modes with poetry, science fiction and historical and autobiographical material. His work has been compared to that of Philip K. Dick by the Guardian and the Financial Times, and to Kurt Vonnegut’s by Locus.

Tidhar's new SF novel is Neom.

At he tagged five favorite SFF books about crashed spaceships, including:
The Nomad in Alfred Bester’s The Stars My Destination

Is The Stars My Destination the greatest science fiction novel of all time™? Does it matter? This Dickensian, extravagant nightmare of a future begins on the wreck of the Nomad, floating in space with one sole survivor, the notorious Gully Foyle, clinging on for dear life. But what crashed the Nomad? Why was Foyle not saved by the passing Vorga, piloted by the ruthless and beguiling Olivia Presteign? And what exactly was the precious cargo the Nomad was carrying? Foyle transforms himself into an engine of revenge to track down the culprits in a headlong rush that draws on The Count of Monte Cristo while serving as the blueprint for countless cyberpunk novels to come. And that doesn’t even start to scratch the surface.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Eight top thrillers with effective twists

Caleb Roehrig is a former actor and television producer who cannot seem to live in one place. Currently dividing his time between Chicago and Helsinki, he is an expert at writing on planes and recovering from jet lag. His young adult titles include the acclaimed thrillers Last Seen Leaving, Death Prefers Blondes, and The Fell of Dark, as well as The Poison Pen—a tie-in to the CW’s popular Riverdale television series—and the Archie Horror original novel A Werewolf in Riverdale.

Roehrig's latest novel is Blood in the Water.

At CrimeReads he tagged eight favorite thrillers with effective twists, including:
Firekeeper’s Daughter, by Angeline Boulley

Daunis Fontaine navigates a complex identity in the international border town of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. Her mother is white, and her father was Ojibwe; but as an unenrolled tribal member, she feels disconnected from her Anishinaabe heritage, while grappling with microaggressions from the non-Native side of her family. When she witnesses a devastating murder, she’s drawn into the Federal investigation of a drug network that seems to be anchored on Sugar Island—home to the Sault’s Ojibwe community. Soon, she’s forced to question everything she thought she knew, and everyone she believed she could trust. A powerful and impactful story, it touches on numerous critical social issues, and lands an unpredictable punch of an ending.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 14, 2022

Nine titles that take aim at the myth of the American hero

Brian O’Hare is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and former U.S. Marine Corps officer. Currently, he’s an award-winning writer and filmmaker living in Los Angeles. His work has appeared in War, Literature and the Arts, Santa Fe Writers Project, and Hobart, and has been nominated for two Pushcart Prizes. He was recently named a Writing Fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts.

O’Hare's new story collection is Surrender.

At Electric Lit he tagged nine books that serve as guideposts on his quest to learn "why my father raised me to be a Marine. Why, after his profound trauma—the pain, the flashbacks, and finally, the humiliating exit—he deemed I share the same experiences." One title on the list:
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain

US Army private Billy Lynn is a hero, or so he’s been told by Fox News and President Bush. Fresh from combat in Iraq, Billy and his squadmates embark on a 2-week “Victory Tour” of America, culminating with the annual Cowboys-Redskins Thanksgiving football game, where they’re ritually adored on national TV. The stakes couldn’t be higher—or more American—as Billy, disillusioned by all he’s seen, contemplates ducking his return to Iraq. An absurd and utterly heartbreaking indictment of America, and our addiction to its noxious yet intoxicating brew of Christianity, capitalism, and nationalism. A damn near perfect book.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk is among Phil Klay's top ten books about returning from war.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 13, 2022

Five top historical novels to remind you how strange the past really was

Born in London, Emily Mitchell moved to the United States as a teenager. She has since lived in Vermont, Osaka, London, New York, San Francisco,West Virginia, Ohio, and Washington DC.

She holds a B.A. from Middlebury College in Vermont. She worked at an editor at Index on Censorship magazine in London and at in New York before getting her M. F. A. at Brooklyn College.

Mitchell is the author of a novel, The Last Summer of the World (2007), an imaginative account of art-photographer Edward Steichen’s work in aerial reconnaissance during World War One, which was a finalist for the 2008 New York Public Library Young Lions Prize and a best-book-of-the-year in the Madison Capital Times, the Austin American-Statesman, and the Providence Journal. She is also the author of a collection of short stories, Viral (2015). Her short fiction has appeared in Harper’s, Ploughshares, New England Review, TriQuarterly, and Alaska Quarterly Review, among other magazines. Her book reviews have appeared in the New York Times and the New Statesman. She has received fellowships from the Sewanee Writers Conference, the Breadloaf Writers Conference, Virginia Center for Creative Arts and the Ucross Foundation. She lives near Washington, DC and teaches writing at the University of Maryland.

At Shepherd Mitchell tagged five of the best historical novels to remind you how strange the past really was, including:
The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje

This was the first novel written by Ondaatje I ever read, when I was in my early 20s, and it was a revelation. The story of Count Lazslo d’Almasy’s doomed love for
the wife of a British archeologist in the Egyptian desert in the years before the Second World War is interspersed and pointedly contrasted with the story of the Canadian nurse, Hana, who cares for the severely disfigured Almasy years later in an abandoned house in France and Hana’s romance with a Sikh man from India who has been drafted into the British army as a sapper. Side by side the two stories lead the reader to inevitable questions about love, equality, freedom, the persistence of history both personal and collective. Here as elsewhere, Ondaatje’s understated lyrical prose makes the worlds he portrays shimmer.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The English Patient also made Cathy Rentzenbrink's list of the top ten bookworms in fiction, Eli Goldstone's ten top list of secrets in fiction, Sarah Moss's top ten list of hospital novels, Robert Allison's top ten list of novels of desert war, Joel Cunningham's list of sixteen book-to-movie adaptations that won Academy Awards, Pico Iyer's top five list of books on crossing cultures, John Mullan's list of ten of the best deserts in literature and Jane Ciabattari's list of five masterpiece stories that worked as films.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 12, 2022

Eleven titles about outsiders, weirdos, and underdogs

Sofija Stefanovic is a Serbian-Australian writer and storyteller based in Manhattan. She is the author of the memoir, Miss Ex-Yugoslavia. She hosts the popular literary salon, Women of Letters New York, and This Alien Nation — a monthly celebration of immigration. She’s a regular storyteller with The Moth, and her writing has appeared in The New York Times,, and, among others.

At Electric Lit she tagged eleven books "featuring a broad range of outsiders that have captured my imagination over the years," including:
The Unspeakable by Meghan Daum

Meghan Daum’s essays tackle controversial subjects, like the death of a parent and the decision not to have children, in surprising ways. I found myself chuckling in agreement with Daum, who grapples with “that disconnect between what we think we’re supposed to feel and what we actually feel” — a situation many outsiders find themselves in the world over. Except Daum has a way of expressing herself with so much wit and insight, we can only wish we were as articulate.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 11, 2022

Five novels revolving around dysfunctional families

Lisa Unger is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author. Her books are published in 26 languages, with millions of copies sold worldwide. In 2019, she received two Edgar Award nominations, an honor held by only a few writers including Agatha Christie. Her work has been named on "Best Book" lists from Today, People, GMA, EW, Amazon, IndieBound and many others. She has written for the NYT, WSJ, NPR, and Travel+Leisure. Netflix is currently making her 2020 book Confessions on the 7:45 into a series starring Jessica Alba. She lives in Florida with her family.

[Q&A with Lisa Unger]

Unger's new novel is Secluded Cabin Sleeps Six.

At CrimeReads she tagged five "novels that do a deep dive into the darkest family dynamics," including:

Beauregard (Bug) is on the straight and narrow, a business owner, loving father and devoted husband. He’s left behind his other life, and his family legacy, as the best wheelman on the east coast. But making ends meet is a struggle. So, when his brother and former partners dangle one last job, the heist that can’t go wrong, Bug feels that he has no choice but to go along. Bug has other choices, and his wife Kia tries to make him see that. But the pull back to his old ways is just too strong. With searing prose and bone-deep understanding of his characters, Cosby reveals all the layers of Bug’s predicament — poverty, paternity, the lure of easy money, and the thrill of that one last job. This is a raw, moving, noir classic about hard choices, the riptide of dark family history, and the crush of poverty, as powerful and fast as any muscle car.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Blacktop Wasteland is among Nick Kolakowski’s five best getaway drivers in contemporary crime fiction and Kia Abdullah's eight novels featuring co-conspirators.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 10, 2022

Top 10 books about losing faith

Matt Rowland Hill was born in 1984 in Pontypridd, South Wales, and grew up in Wales and England. His writing has appeared in the Guardian, the Independent, New Statesman, the Telegraph and other outlets. He now lives in London.

His memoir, Original Sins, is his first book.

At the Guardian Hill tagged ten books that
tell stories of individuals wrestling not only with doubt in God but in families, institutions, political systems and the meaning of life itself. And, taken together, they seem to suggest – to me, at least – that ultimately our best hope of salvation lies in the miracle of art.
One title on the list:
Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi

When Gifty, the daughter of Ghanaian migrants to the US, discovers that her brother has died of an opiate overdose, she loses her Christian faith in an instant: “One minute there was a God with the whole world in his hands; the next minute the world was plummeting, ceaselessly, towards an ever-shifting bottom.” Gyasi’s short novel takes in a host of themes – religion, family, addiction, grief, science, race – in a fearless exploration of the various ways we seek to survive unbearable loss.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Ten titles that celebrate feral girls

Erin Slaughter is the author of the story collection A Manual for How to Love Us, forthcoming in March 2023, and two books of poetry: The Sorrow Festival (2022), and I Will Tell This Story to the Sun Until You Remember That You Are the Sun (2019). Slaughter is editor/co-founder of literary journal and chapbook press The Hunger and holds an MFA from Western Kentucky University. Originally from Texas, she lives in Tallahassee, Florida, where she is a PhD candidate at Florida State University and was awarded the Edward H. and Marie C. Kingsbury Fellowship.

At Electric Lit Slaughter tagged ten novels and stories about women living at the edge of their animal desires, including:
Shit Cassandra Saw by Gwen Kirby

Each story in this phenomenal debut collection is a building block of a universe where women’s joys and burdens swirl at the molten core—a world where women encounter abuse, cat-calling, slut-shaming, and a grab-bag of familiar misogynies, and instead of quietly tolerating them, employ (often fantastical) means to confront them. The titular story is a reimagining of Greek mythological figure Cassandra, who uses her gift of prophecy to glimpse a future where women finally get a leg-up on the slog of womanhood, a future with access to tampons, Twizzlers, yoga, and epidurals. Though Cassandra knows she is fated to be killed by the Trojans, she holds the satisfying knowledge that they’ll be reduced by history to a condom brand. This story, which opens the book, sets the tone for the unapologetic, fiery lens through which Kirby breaks the fourth wall on tropes about girls and women, redefining their stories with new vulnerability and power.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Six crime novels that revolve around art or the art world

Kate Belli writes historical mysteries and contemporary thrillers. Fascinated by history from an early age, she earned a PhD in American art and has variously worked as an antiques appraiser, a museum curator and a college professor. Belli has lived all over, from Florence, Italy, to Brooklyn, New York, to the Deep South, to a cottage next to Monet’s gardens in Northern France. Today she lives and works in Central Pennsylvania with her husband and son.

Belli's new novel is Treachery on Tenth Street.

At CrimeReads she tagged six "crime novels with a plot that revolves around art or the art world," including:
The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt

One could argue that the titular painting in this novel, The Goldfinch (1654) by Dutch artist Carel Fabritius,
serves as a MacGuffin as well, but here the connection between the painting and the characters’ motivations are deeper, particularly that of main character Theo Decker. Starting with an explosion at the Metropolitan Museum in New York that leads to Theo’s theft of the painting, the novel shifts locales along with him, detailing how Theo deals with his trauma and loss through the painting, as well as through substance abuse. For a time Theo occupies the shadowy world of antique and art forgery, and while this book is less overtly a suspense novel than Tartt’s 1993 The Secret History, it still blends elements of crime fiction with literature deftly, so much so it was awarded the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Goldfinch is among Marisha Pessl's six favorite stories of suspense and Sophie Ward's six best books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 7, 2022

Seven essential Marilyn Monroe books

At Vulture Nathan Smith tagged seven of "the best books that deconstruct, analyze, and even transmogrify the star known as Marilyn Monroe." One title on the list:
Marilyn Monroe: The Biography, by Donald Spoto

Donald Spoto’s deeply researched and detailed biography of Monroe is a hard find today but worth the hunt. It’s often considered the best of the Monroe bios and
remains an essential corrective. At almost 800 pages, it’s a fulsome account of Monroe’s much fabled life story, beginning with her difficult childhood — the absent, unknown father and mentally unwell mother — to her early days hustling in Hollywood, all right up until her huge celebrity finally engulfed her. The book is a fair and revisionist take that puts to bed many rumors, including completely debunking the sexual-affair stories with the Kennedy brothers (thanks Mailer). Spato states Monroe slept with J.F.K. only once: “The Kennedys had almost nothing to do with her.” This is all underpinned by comprehensive research, including 35,000 personal and professional documents (some unsealed for the first time), and rare interviews including with those present at the autopsy (who stress Monroe wasn’t murdered by the FBI or CIA). Instead, Spoto tries to let the straight facts talk alongside heavily attributable sourcing, arguing that Monroe’s tragic ends had everything to do with her search for stability in life and nothing to do with wild conspiracies.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 6, 2022

Sixty of the best campus novels from the last 100 years

Emily Temple is the author of The Lightness and the Managing Editor at Literary Hub. She earned her MFA in fiction from the University of
Virginia, where she was the recipient of a Henfield Prize.

[My Book, The Movie: The Lightness; The Page 69 Test: The Lightness]

At Lit Hub she tagged the 60 best campus novels from the last 100 years, including:
Jean Hanff Korelitz, Admission (2009)

Concerning, as the title suggests, an infrequent campus novel subject: the admissions officer.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Page 69 Test: Admission.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 5, 2022

Seven memoirs about leaving home

Sarah Fawn Montgomery is the author of Halfway from Home (2022). She is also the author of Quite Mad: An American Pharma Memoir (2018) and the poetry chapbooks Regenerate: Poems of Mad Women (2017), Leaving Tracks: A Prairie Guide (2017), and The Astronaut Checks His Watch (2014). Her work has been listed as notable in Best American Essays for the last several years, and her poetry and prose have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies. Montgomery holds an MFA in creative writing from California State University-Fresno and a PhD in English in creative writing from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She is an Assistant Professor at Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts.

At Electric Lit Montgomery tagged seven "books about searching for place, self, and belonging," including:
Engine Running by Cade Mason

Cade Mason’s debut essay collection is an innovative archive of stories and selves frozen in time, an exploration of whether home only exists after it is gone. Examining what it means to grow distanced from the people and place that raised you, Mason shares the story of his gradual separation from his religious West Texas home and fractured family. Mason travels through endless roads and dusty farms, weaving childhood stories with family secrets in order to piece together the story of how his family fell apart—his father struggling to forget the past in the aftermath of divorce, his mother eager to move on to her future, his sister caught up in the chaos. This is a story of queerness in the rural South, of the myths of manhood, and of the end of a marriage, a family, and a home. Mason teaches readers what it means to love a place that you must also leave in order to live.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 4, 2022

Five mystery novels featuring the bond between humans & animals

Amber Camp writes cozy mysteries that reflect her love of animals and quirky small towns. A lifelong lover of books, she started writing her own stories as a teenager and found she loves to write as much as she loves to read. Camp lives in Northwest Arkansas with her husband and daughter and works as a registered nurse at a small rural hospital. She has a menagerie of animals that includes dogs, cats, horses, chickens and what has been described as the Mule from Hell, which may or may not be a slight exaggeration.

Camp's new novel is Canter with a Killer.

At CrimeReads she tagged five "great mysteries that combine a compelling whodunit with the passion and dedication of animal rescue," including:
Alex Erickson, The Pomeranian Always Barks Twice

Liz Denton and her son Ben run Forever Pets Rescue and regularly foster and rescue animals in need. Their current residents include two beagles and a calico cat on wheels. The latest animal needing help is an adorable elderly Pomeranian named Stewie. His owner, Mr. Fuller, is also elderly and sadly needs to go into a care home that doesn’t allow pets. When Liz and Ben arrive, they find rescue rival Courtney is already there which results in a nasty quarrel and Liz has to arrange a later pickup for Stewie. Liz leaves and Ben visits a neighbor while they wait to return. When Liz comes back for Stewie she finds that Mr. Fuller has been murdered and Ben is getting collared for it! Liz snaps into mother bear mode and sets out to clear Ben’s name. The rescue animals play an important role in the backdrop for the central whodunit and Liz gets plenty of support from her veterinarian husband. I’ve always had a soft spot for the oldsters, so Stewie won me over from the get-go.
Read about the other mysteries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 3, 2022

Top 10 books about fathers and sons

Blake Morrison was born in Skipton, Yorkshire, and educated at Nottingham University, McMaster University and University College, London. After working for the Times Literary Supplement, he went on to become literary editor of both The Observer and the Independent on Sunday before becoming a full-time writer in 1995.

A Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, and former Chair of the Poetry Book Society and Vice-Chair of PEN, Morrison has written fiction, poetry, journalism, literary criticism and libretti, as well as adapting plays for the stage. His best-known works are probably his two memoirs, And When Did You Last See Your Father? and Things My Mother Never Told Me.

At the Guardian Morrison tagged ten top books about fathers and sons, including:
My Father’s Fortune by Michael Frayn

A childhood memoir that features an endearingly eccentric father, who’s a cricket enthusiast and salesman for an asbestos firm – and an early widower too. Frayn’s tone is genial. Instead of an oedipal battle, there’s banter; instead of a jostle for supremacy, lots of joshing. Lots of good jokes, too.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue